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Birdsong (Vintage War)
Birdsong (Vintage War)
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sweet sound of Faulks' Birdsong, 19 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Birdsong (Vintage War) (Paperback)
I was primarily sceptical as to whether or not I would find Birdsong to my taste – as it largely focused on life in the trenches during the First World War. Upon learning that it had been voted thirteenth best loved book in the country in the BBC’s Big Read extravaganza however, I became convinced that it must have something special about it, and immediately located a copy. It does indeed have something special about it. So much so that after two days of continuous reading, I found I literally could not part with it. Faulks’ magnificent prose has a sensitive quality to it that I had not expected. Indeed, it seems to directly contrast with the horrific images of war-torn land (and flesh) that is depicted later in the novel.
The story follows a young Englishman named Stephen Wraysford. During the first part of the book, set in France in 1910, he is lodging with a native family. Much to his surprise, Stephen finds himself falling passionately in love with the lady of the house, Isabelle. The two eventually escape, shamed by their affair, to the country, but it soon becomes apparent that Isabelle feels disgraced by the pain she has inflicted upon her husband and family, and abruptly leaves her lover. Part two of the book resumes Stephen’s journey in 1916, when the First World War is in full swing and he is an officer in charge. Lonely and often frightened by his situation, yet with a formidable will to survive against the odds, he attempts to lead the soldiers under his care to victory. The final section of the novel follows Stephen’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, in London during the late nineteen seventies, as she attempts to trace her family history, and uncover details about the grandfather she never met.
I cannot emphasise enough just how moving Birdsong is. Some of the descriptions employed by Faulks to express the true horror of war had me contorting my face in disbelief on many an occasion. This book is not for the faint-hearted – the scenes involving bodies maimed by explosives and gunfire is truly devastating, and the author is not afraid to describe the state of the mutilated bodies with acute accuracy. Like many of my generation, whilst being vaguely aware of the number of dead claimed by the fighting, I was in no way prepared for the true scale of it: “On every surface of every column as far as the eye could see there were names teeming, reeling, over surfaces of yards, over hundreds of yards, over furlongs of stone… She looked at the vault above her head and then around in panic at the endless writing [on the monument], as though the surface of the sky had been papered in footnotes.”
I have not read many novels set during the war, but one thing that struck me about Birdsong that I am not aware of similar books doing, is the way in which it portrays life not only in the trenches, but also underground, following the miners’ struggle. Faulks introduces us to Jack Firebrace, one of the many said miners working alongside Stephen’s regiment. Jack, like Stephen, becomes a character the reader becomes emotionally involved with. Indeed, upon finishing the book, I felt almost as if I had lost a friend. The most heart-rending part of the story for me was towards the end, when Stephen comes face to face with one of the German soldiers. The ensuing events had me in tears – an uncommon event where literature is concerned!
Birdsong is a truly captivating, inspirational novel – Stephen’s strength of spirit is incredibly moving, and the sensitivity with which Faulks executes his story is a pleasure to read about. I urge you to experience it for yourself.

Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics)
Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Evelyn Waugh
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.23

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Waugh's greatest satires, 14 Jan. 2004
Having recently read Waugh's BBC Big Read-nominated 'Brideshead Revisited,' I was encouraged by reviews of others that Decline and Fall was as good, if not better, than Brideshead. I found Decline and Fall to have many more laugh-out-loud moments than its predecessor, although I did not feel there was as much depth to the story.
Waugh begins the book by describing a rather subdued young Oxford student, Paul Pennyfeather. By an unfortunate turn of wittily constructed events however, Paul is thrown out of the university for indecent behaviour when a group of rowdy youths strip him of his clothes, and he is forced to run naked around the school grounds. With no choice but to apply for a job, the unlucky character finds himself working as a teacher in a bizarre Welsh school. True to Waugh's wonderfully imaginative style of writing, Paul's colleagues are drunks and/or idiots, and the students irritating half-wits. Paul's series of amusing episodes culminates when he is on the brink of marrying a rather eccentric aristocratic lady, when he is thrown in to prison.
Although Paul's escapades were hugely entertaining, the series of coincidences he encounters eventually left me feeling rather frustrated, as the reader was being asked to suspend his or her disbelief to a ludicrous level. This small negative point, however, was far outweighed by the splendid array of eccentric characters, most notably Paul's fellow school masters Captain Grimes (frequently 'in the soup') and the lovable (yet completely potty) Mr Prendergast, who at one point during a sports day race, accidentally shoots one of the pupils in the foot with the starting gun.
Waugh was undoubtedly one of the greatest satirists of his day, and although written in nineteen twenty-eight, Decline and Fall remains a witty, hugely comic novel to this day. Those who have enjoyed the book may also enjoy 'Vile Bodies' by the same author. Paul and his peculiar friends brightened my evenings considerably. I urge you to give it a read.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl
by Andrew Donkin
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy power!, 14 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Artemis Fowl (Paperback)
There was a lot I never knew about fairies. I first began to realise this when I picked up a copy of the BBC Big Read-nominated Artemis Fowl. I was most surprised by the style of humour contained within the story – not gentle jokes as one may imagine, but instead an approach similar to that used in the Simpsons; gags with undertones that perhaps adults would find even funnier than the kids. That is not to in any way imply that Colfer’s writing is unsuitable for youngsters, rather that it is a two-sided affair, which can be appreciated by old and young alike: “Perhaps a Shao Lin priest could have anticipated some of the more exaggerated movements, but these men were hardly trained adversaries. In fairness, they weren’t even completely sober.”
The story follows Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon unit (think The Bill with futuristic gadgets and a cast affected by restricted growth). After a mission taking her from the safety of her underground home to the treacherous above ground area, she finds herself being taken hostage by twelve-year-old genius Artemis Fowl. As the rest of Holly’s platoon battle to reach her before daylight becomes visible, Colfer takes the opportunity to introduce us to an extraordinary array of innovative devices (emphasising the fairy people being light-years ahead of humans in terms of technology), such as the prosthetic finger, which can be temporarily attached to an officer’s hand and used as a weapon: “Yes, but not any ordinary finger… The tip contains a pressurised dart. You tap the knuckle with your thumb and someone goes sleepy-bye.” It is the wonderfully comic Foaly - technology wizard to the LEPrecon organization - responsible for the mind-boggling gizmos. One of my particular favourite inventions is the contact lens that can be fitted over the eye then used to transmit information to the team at HQ, whilst also being able to zoom in on certain areas in the individual’s field of vision.
The author cleverly manages to convey the importance of certain environmental issues into his writing, such as the human race’s lack of respect towards sea creatures (whales and dolphins in particular, carelessly destroyed by gargantuan fishing vessels). On a lighter note, Holly’s boss, Commander Root, is hugely entertaining in his severe manner and general incompetence. His light-hearted banter with Foaly is a great source of amusement on many occasions. A significant portion of the novel described the LEPrecon team’s ability to stop time, by cordoning off a specific area (in this case being Artemis’s home, where Captain Short is being held hostage), then working their fairy magic and allowing the time field within the chosen vicinity to remain constant, whilst the outside world proceeds at its usual pace. The powers possessed by the fairies also allows them to shield themselves from human eyes by becoming invisible, and mind-control techniques, making them capable of overriding a human's thoughts.
As several other reviewers have pointed out, it is a shame that Artemis Fowl has been overshadowed to a great extent by the Harry Potter phenomenon. The magnificent assortment of characters within the novel is a pleasure to read about, and Colfer’s warm, witty prose is truly heart-warming. Old or young, I urge you to read it.

Bridget Jones's Diary: A Novel
Bridget Jones's Diary: A Novel
by Helen Fielding
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is one diary you have permission to read, 8 Jan. 2004
Try as you might, it is impossible to ignore Bridget Jones’ diary: Not only is (seemingly) everyone talking about it, but since it was votes into the BBC’s Top One-Hundred Books list, it is on display in virtually every bookshop in the country. This is highly unusual, not least because it was originally published seven years ago, yet still the hype refuses to die down. For this reason alone, I must resort to the well-used saying, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’
The warmth and wit contained within the story got me more than a few funny looks as I read the book in public. It is incredibly rare for books described as ‘laugh-out-loud funny’ to live up to their promise, but this is an exception to the rule. I did not expect a book so frequently recognised as a ‘chick-lit’ novel to achieve so much, and I believe that it is all to often dismissed for exactly that reason. The book – quite obviously from its title – is in diary form and follows a miserable single, diet fanatic, thirty plus woman named Bridget Jones. We are let into Ms. Jones’ most intimate thoughts and hopes as she longs for a boyfriend, a productive career and a total body weight of eight stone seven. With each diary entry, she records her current weight, units of alcohol and number of cigarettes consumed that day. Bridget herself is a wonderfully colourful character, but I believe the real star of the novel is her mother. “I was beginning to suspect that I would open the Sunday People to see my mother sporting dyed blonde hair and a leopard-skin top, sitting on a sofa with someone in stone-washed jeans named Gonzales and explaining that, if you really love someone, a forty-six year age gap really doesn’t matter.” As I recall several reviewers have previously mentioned, the mother’s escapades are hugely amusing whilst at the same time inducing the thought, ‘thank God I don’t have a mother like Bridget’s.’ Much of the story does, in fact, follow Mrs. Jones as she appears to have an end-of-life crisis and befriends a loathsome (to Bridget, anyway) Latin man named Julio. Indeed such is the twist involving the couple’s friendship that during the last quarter of the book I was utterly gripped by the unfolding story.
I have read several books of this style and can honestly say that I whole-heartedly agree with others who have pointed out that Helen Fielding is one of the leaders in writing this particular genre. Anyone who has enjoyed reading about Bridget would most probably enjoy the books of Irish author Marian Keyes (‘Rachel’s Holiday’ being one of her greatest novels). One thing that I did not like about Bridget Jones’ Diary however, was Bridget’s relentless insistence that she simply must lose weight in order to achieve happiness. Bridget’s relationship with love-interest Mark, too, had its predictable moments. However, there were some superbly entertaining lines exchanged between the two: “If you ask me once more if I’ve read any good books lately I’m going to eat my head.”
I have not yet read the sequel, entitled Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, but have heard good things about it. There is also, of course, the big-screen version to look out for as well as the follow-up (currently in production). This is a rare women’s novel that men, too, have read and enjoyed (Salman Rushdie is quoted on the back cover singing its praises). The author splendidly manages to create a character able to appeal to both sexes. Utterly wonderful… I urge you to set aside a day or two and read it immediately.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany's
by Truman Capote
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth missing breakfast, lunch AND dinner for, 30 Dec. 2003
This review is from: Breakfast at Tiffany's (Paperback)
Although it is the title tale this book is most frequently remembered for, the accompanying short stories should not be overlooked: With a dash of humour and a sprinkling of warmth, this magnificent compilation of four stories was truly a pleasure to read. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, following the mysterious aspiring young actress Holly Golightly, had me hooked from the first few pages not only due to the secrecy regarding her past, but also the way in which there is little or no information offered about the narrator. The reader, experiencing Miss Golightly’s company through the eyes of the storyteller, is unaware of even the simplest facts about the narrator’s own life (to such an extent that we never even learn his name). Such is his obsession with his new friend, that it is as if his own existence becomes unimportant. I believe it is this unusual method of storytelling that is largely responsible for the book’s success.
Another aspect of Truman Capote’s writing I greatly appreciated was his sensitivity and attention to detail: “We giggled, ran, sang along the paths toward the old wooden boathouse, now gone. Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the only smudge on the quivering air. I thought of the future, and spoke of the past.” It is the relationship between Holly and the narrator that stands out in my mind when remembering the story. Their friendship is touching, and the way in which the narrator longs for Holly is often heart-rending.
Of the other stories, ‘House of Flowers,’ (about a changing relationship) ‘A Diamond Guitar’ (following a group of prisoners) and ‘A Christmas Memory,’ it is the latter which stood out for me. The tale revolves around a seven-year old child and his elderly (distant) cousin. The innocence with which the story is narrated is particularly emotive, as although the two are years apart in terms of age, mentally they appear on a par: “We eat our supper (cold biscuits, bacon, blackberry jam) and discuss tomorrow. Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple… why, we’ll need a pony to pull the buggy home.” The two friends occupy themselves with the baking of a number of fruitcakes, a tradition of theirs.
On the outset, this is not the kind of book I would usually pick up, but am immensely glad I did. It was the warmth and compassion employed by the author throughout the book that appealed to me the most. The wealth of kindred, and often-eccentric characters was most agreeable, and I intend to locate a copy of Capote’s murder-mystery ‘In Cold Blood’ as soon as possible. I whole-heartedly recommend the magnificent Breakfast at Tiffany’s – it is the literary equivalent of an ice-cream sundae. Great fun.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag with an infectious sound, 22 Dec. 2003
This review is from: Justified (Audio CD)
Try as you might, it is virtually impossible to get away from the vice-like grip Justin Timberlake possesses over the music industry at the present time. From the opening seconds of the album, it is clear that this is a polished effort, which has been superbly produced. 'Senorita' allows the listener to believe he or she is at a live performance, so is the feel of this catchy little number. Later on in the song, Mr. Timberlake goes on to request his audience sing to accompany him, and he is most encouraging; 'Gentlemen, goodnight. Ladies, good morning,' he laughs, when his audience in the studio have performed their required segment of the song satisfactorily. Justin continues to hold the listeners attention with track two, 'Like I Love You,' arguably one of his greatest successes to date, chalking up many a week in the top ten. Although the lyrical content of the song is self-explanatory, the words 'People are so phony... They say so and so are dating, love you or they're hating. Aren't you sick of the same thing?' clearly express the artists intense feelings on the subject of media intrusion into the life of a celebrity.
Although Timberlake is keen to shed his boy-band past, 'Take It From Here' whilst a pleasant enough ballad, wouldn't be at all out of place on one of N'Sync's albums. The other rather less bland ballad, 'Never Again,' is a collaboration with artist/writer/producer Brian McKnight. Luckily for the mush haters amongst us however, the up-tempo songs far out-number the slowies. One of the most unusual introductions on the album comes from the haunting 'Cry Me a River.' You may be forgiven for assuming the track is an homage to a Ukrainian geographical feature but no, it is not a reference to the Crimea River, rather Mr Timberlake requesting a previous girlfriend to cry tears over a broken relationship. The running-water and synthesiser effects complement the opera-style voice used in this aggressively lyric-ed hit. I rather get the impression that Timberlake uses the opportunity to vent his anger in this number, and it is a move that pays off surprisingly well. The passion contained within it leads the listener to the conclusion that it could only be autobiographical. One of my particular favourites is the irritatingly catchy 'Rock Your Body.' Whether or not you have listened to the album, you will undoubtedly be familiar with this disco/techno sounding track, which has been used on numerous television and radio adverts since its release. Many lines within this song ('Bet I have you naked by the end of this song,') further emphasise the artist's efforts in bringing his sound to an older audience.
It is the production of Justified that captures the attention of many music lovers. Had Mr Timberlake not chosen to work with the likes of the Neptunes (their influence in Like I Love You is clearly present after hearing their work in Nelly's 'Hot in Herre,' for example) and Timbaland (Missy Elliott/Aaliyah). Those who are adamant that a true musician should be able to write their own songs and play an instrument will not be at all disappointed to learn that Justin co-wrote every track on the album and whilst I am not aware of him playing an instrument per se, he regularly uses his human beat box sounds.
Perhaps one of the primary reasons behind his success lies in the unique voice he possesses and, although influences of the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder are apparent, his distinctive urban/r&b sound in a music world all too frequently clogged up with superficial pop acts is most welcome. Whilst lyrically the themes of the songs are predictable, the strong bass lines and atmospheric vocal arrangements go a long way to readdress the balance. I whole-heartedly recommend this album, but be warned - one listen and you may be well and truly hooked.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
by Douglas Adams
Edition: Paperback

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you have a reservation, Sir?, 22 Dec. 2003
It was always going to be difficult to write a sequel to the phenomenally successful Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but do you know, I think Mr Adams just about pulls it off. If the reviews on this page are anything to go by, opinion is greatly varied on the matter, but I believe all the warmth, wit and sci-fi jargon from its predecessor spills over into the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
We begin the story where the Hitchhikers Guide left off, with the Arthur and his strange new friends hurtling through space on the stolen ship, the Heart of Gold. No sooner has the book begun however, a familiar set of poetry-loving aliens reappear - the dreaded (yet hugely entertaining) Vogons. The circumstances surrounding their attack on the Heart of Gold ship is tremendously amusing in itself as all computer intelligence aboard Arthur's spacecraft is currently preoccupied with the character's request for a decent cup of tea. It takes a while, but a cup of the finest China hot drink finally appears. As the title suggests, the set of characters eventually find their way to the curious restaurant Milliways, situated - rather obviously - at the end of the Universe. Within this particular section of the story, I greatly enjoyed the wealth of description regarding the interior of the eatery. Douglas Adams takes the opportunity to let his imagination run wild, and the reader is allowed to learn of the "five tons of glitter alone" that "covered every available surface... The other surfaces were encrusted with jewels, precious seashells from Santraginus, gold leaf, mosaic tiles, lizard skins and a million unidentifiable embellishments and decorations. Arthur glanced round, half expecting to see someone making an American Express commercial."
Needless to say, Adams continues his much loved writing style and goes on to introduce a batch of brilliantly comical characters, including intergalactic rock star Hotblack Desiato, (who is spending a year dead for tax reasons) and the dim-witted Captain of an unusual aircraft, who has spent the last three years conducting meetings with his crew from the comfort of his bath. One character I missed from the first book however, was the amusingly annoying (if that's at all possible) Eddie, the ship's computer. That is not to say that he doesn't appear, but only briefly. Marvin the paranoid android is depressed as usual, and kept me entertained in his loathing of everything. I felt that the ending was rather lacking though, as some of the characters seem to just disappear and we do not get to find out what becomes of them (not until the follow up novel, 'Life, the Universe and Everything' that is).
There are plenty of unforgettably sharp lines: "Trin Tragula - for that was his name - was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." The section involving the hunt for the man who rules the Universe (an idiot who lives in a shack in the middle of nowhere) is especially enjoyable, as is the usual banter between the chief characters, who are on top form. Overall, I would have no hesitation on recommending the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but do be sure to read the Hitchhikers Guide first. This truly is the stuff that cults are made of.

Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder
Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder
by Evelyn Waugh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead... well worth a visit, 22 Dec. 2003
Given that this is amongst one of the first classics I have read, Brideshead Revisited was a wonderful treat. Set against the backdrop of Oxford University in the early part of the twentieth century, the magnitude of glorious characters and vivid imagery Waugh creates in, arguably, one of his finest novels, truly deserves its place in the BBC's Top One-Hundred Books list.
The very idea of the book's central character, Charles Ryder, meeting the rather eccentric Sebastian by the latter vomiting through the formers window had me laughing aloud. I was not at all prepared for a book appearing so serious to be full of warmth, wit and marvellous satirical content. The following line, in an exchange between the newfound friends, has to be one of my favourites. "The motor-car belongs to a man named Hardcastle. Return the bits to him if I kill myself; I'm not very good at driving." Given that the main part of the novel follows Charles' life over a period of approximately fifteen years, it is interesting to see how the relationships between the characters evolve and the coincidences that allow them to meet unexpectedly as their lives progress. One of the reasons behind my decision to award the book four stars instead of five is my disappointment in the disappearance of the splendidly camp character of Anthony Blanche. By this I mean that as the years roll on, the friends inevitably part ways and so Anthony, regrettably, is withdrawn as one of the primary characters. It was not at all unusual for him to embark upon a speech that would eventually cover two or even three pages. Far from being dull or tedious however, I found myself being drawn into the unconventional life led by the character.
One thing that struck me about Waugh's writing above all else was his remarkable sensitivity regarding the description of landscapes, house interiors, and so on. He managed to capture the very essence of upper-class life led by the family Charles becomes so fascinated by. At times I found his ability to write with such compassion nothing short of breathtaking: "I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember." I did feel, however, that the last quarter of the book dwindled somewhat from the fun and games of university life encountered by Charles at the beginning of the book. This is hardly surprising, since that is one of the main themes of the story - the serious nature of family life, and the complications that can arise from it. Still, I was disappointed by the disappearance of the most entertaining characters.
Waugh's style of writing - particularly within the first half of the book - greatly reminded me of Donna Tartt's. The theme in fact - Charles' life at university - is very much similar to that in Tartt's first work of fiction, The Secret History, which I would whole-heartedly recommend as another compelling, dark novel. In conclusion, I would urge you to give Brideshead Revisited a read, not least for the wonderful array of characters created by the greatly talented author.

Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics)
Anna Karenina (Penguin Classics)
by Leo Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nineteenth century scandal, 22 Dec. 2003
Upon learning that Anna Karenina had won a place in the BBC's Top One-Hundred Books list, I thought it was about time I gave it a read. Being approximately eight hundred pages in length and having been translated from its original Russian, it was no mean feat, I assure you. I enjoyed the opening immensely; Tolstoy begins the book with news of a household in chaos, with the wife of the rather cheeky character Stepan Arkadyich having recently found out of her husband's affair with the French governess. The opening line, 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,' had me believing that if the novel was full of little gems like this, perhaps it wouldn't be such a slog after all. I was to be disappointed however, as several reviewers have previously mentioned, there is a great deal of unnecessary detail often covering many pages at a time (any reader with a passion for Russian history and/or culture may find such detail rewarding to read, however).
Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina in eighteen seventy-three, and it is all too easy to take such themes involved in the novel as commonplace in the times we live in, but at the date of its original publication such subject matter would have been nothing short of scandalous. Our heroine Anna for example, embarks upon an affair with the Casanova figure Vronsky, whilst she is married to someone else. The reader is able to journey with Anna as she makes heartbreaking decisions, such as whether she should abandon her child and escape her loveless marriage in order to pursue her new relationship. While these events are taking place, a story running parallel portrays an introvert young gentleman named Levin - a character based on Tolstoy himself - attempting to win the heart of a youthful princess.
As you may well imagine, this is no light-heated read and some of the imagery used by the author goes some way in conveying the content of the story: "And he felt how a murderer must feel when he looks at the body he has deprived of life. This body deprived of life was their love... But despite the murder's horror before the murdered body, he had to cut it into pieces and hide it, he had to make use of what the murderer has gained by his murder."
One of the main proposals Tolstoy puts to the reader is that of the complex nature of relationships between humans, and how often one longs for something out of one's reach, but as soon as possession is assumed, it is no longer desired. I chose to award Anna Karenina three stars for the story alone, Tolstoy's narration is incredibly poetic and full of drama, and deserves five. If I had even the slightest knowledge of Russian, I would not hesitate to read the novel in its purest form, as I believe the translation into English is much to blame for some of the iffy prose (not the fault of the translators, but merely the difficulty in bringing the story into a language other than that which was intended). Anna Karenina is certainly not short of fans, and for that reason alone I urge you to set aside some time in order to read it, then you can make up your own mind.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
by Douglas Adams
Edition: Paperback

61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only guide to the galaxy you'll ever need to read, 3 Dec. 2003
There is just one reason why The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was voted into the BBC's Top One Hundred Books list, and that is because it is simply brilliant. It is a work of science fiction, but the humour contained within the story is not only incredibly witty, but also unusual within its chosen genre. Be prepared to susend your disbelief however, as the series of adventures and coincidences encountered by the characters is nothing short of extrordinary.
The story follows a rather eccentric Englishman by the name of Arthur Dent, as one Thursday morning the Earth is demolished by a group of poetry-loving Vogons who want rid of the planet in order to make way for a Hyper-Spatial Express Route. This sets the scene for Arthur and his extra-terrestial friend, Ford, to journey through space and, amongst other things, come accross the two-headed, three-armed President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, his one-time girlfriend Trillian, and a paranoid android by the name of Marvin. There are many aspects of the book that contribute towards its status as a cult classic, but I believe primary among these is the way in which Douglas Adams manages to bring accross the personalities of the characters. "Arthur said coldly, 'We've met, haven't we Zaphod Beeblebrox - or should I say... Phil?'" Not only are they resonsible for some of the most amusing lines I have ever had the pleasure of reading, but upon finishing the book I felt a longing to become one of the crew upon the Heart of Gold ship the characters inhabit. Arthur is a particular favourite of mine, and the way in which he looks upon the current events of his life with such fascination is a great source of amusement. "'You know,' said Arthur, 'it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogan airlock with a man from Betelgeuse and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young.' 'Why, what did she tell you?' 'I don't know, I didn't listen.'" Another part of the writing I found hugely impressive was the way in which Adams managed to create a whole range of fascinating gadgets, including the ships irritatingly cheery Eddie, who is much-loathed by the other characters.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is only the first in a series of five novels which I am informed started life as a set of radio plays in nineteen seventy-eight (followed by the book, a year later). I would whole-heartedly recommend that any reader has enjoyed the book to set about reading the rest. I have to date read the books three times, and have each time been utterly seduced by the warmth, wit and humour. It truly deserves to be referred to as a classic.

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